The idea that Barack Obama is the first “open source president” seems to be spreading. It’s based on the way he ran his campaign, the change.gov transition site, and the participation sought by whitehouse.gov.
This is the latest mainstream paper to take up the notion, a column by Errol Louis in the New York Daily News.
Barack Obama isn’t just America’s first black President. He’s also our first “open-source” President, a leader willing to let anybody and everybody figure out how, when and where they want to get involved.
This goes way beyond urging citizens to volunteer in their communities, as Obama did the day before the inauguration. Our new President, the Community-Organizer-in-Chief, is radically redefining political participation so that followers can do as much or as little as they choose.
The “open-source” strategy was popularized by computer software companies. Instead of creating and selling a copyrighted program that costs millions to dream up, some firms simply give away the basic program and invite anybody to improve on it.
The result is programs that improve by leaps and bounds. And Obama has applied the idea to politics.
The Internet Archive, a project to create a digital library of the web for posterity, successfully fought a secret government Patriot Act order for records about one of its patrons and won the right to make the order public, civil liberties groups announced Wednesday morning.
On November 26, 2007, the FBI served a controversial National Security Letter .pdf on the Internet Archive’s founder Brewster Kahle, asking for records about one of the library’s registered users, asking for the user’s name, address and activity on the site.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Internet Archive’s lawyers, fought the NSL, challenging its constitutionality in a December 14 complaint .pdf to a federal court in San Francisco. The FBI agreed on April 21 to withdraw the letter and unseal the court case, making some of the documents available to the public.
“Dang, it looks like Microsoft got the Chile account.”
– Overheard in a North Carolina bar, 5:15 pm, Friday afternoon.
Here’s a Blog round-up on the implications of the Microsoft-Chile convergence.
A big story is breaking in Chile about a “voluntary agreement” struck between the Chilean Government and Microsoft that goes way beyond the usual licensing deal.
A copy of the agreement leaked and sparked “outrage” in the open and free software community. Opponents there are calling it “The day Chile sold itself to Microsoft.” So far, the outcry has forced the government to explain its move, and as the news spreads, so is resistance to the plan.
A loosely-translated summary of the agreement:
- 1 Million USD for training ($67 USD per student for 15.000 students)
- Coordination through local non profit organizations,
- 15 Million “Free users” of MSFT LIVE (Mail, Messenger, Spaces and Mobile)
- App Hosting, 2 Gib of storage per user, with WAP access etc..
c) Local Government Support
- They will provide the frame work for web page development to local municipalities.
- The creation of a School of innovation in a low income province.
- 1 Million USD, for the development,
e)Public Local Schools,
- MSFT will provide and maintain the software for local public schools.
- 600k USD for the training of local professors.
g) Small Business
- 5 Million USD in SW for small business and productivity tools.
h) Low income areas
- MSFT will provide its encyclopedia, and the office Suite, with an estimated savings of 6 Mil,
i) Security Collaboration
- MSFT will donate its Child Explotation Traking Sistem o CETS
- MFST will contract lawyers to review the local laws regrading ciber criminals
j) Software Security Collaboration
- MSFT will work with the local universities, providing bug fixes and security notices
k) Innovation Initiatives,
- MSFT will collaborate with 4 innovation centers at a university level, to promote innovation, with an investment of 300k over 3 years.
l) Competitive Innovation
- MSFT will study the impact of technology in at least 3 important economic sectors of the country.
As yet, nothing much has appeared in the anglophile tech press, but lots is being written about the deal in Chile:
As more information appears in English, it will be posted here.
“There is a feeling among Chilean bloggers that the agreement signed between the Economy Minister, Alejandro Ferreiro and Craig Mundie, Chief Research and Strategy Officer de Microsoft Corporation on May 9th is not good for Chile. The title of this post written by Christian in elfrancotirador [ES] explains the situation in a simple way:
Guys: what would you say if I told you that starting today that the 15 million of Chileans will (all) be users of Microsoft, even if we wanted to or not? That’s what I thought.
And, what if I added, that from now on, to make any state or municipal transaction will require the use of Microsoft software? Don’t be content with this beacause in addition, the entire Chilean education system will be carried out through the Microsoft platform-and that’s not it, but every registered student of our country will turn into a “preferential client” of the company.
Weitzner, a lawyer and Washington insider before moving to the W3C, said making an event discussing government transparency less transparent was necessary because government officials could then speak more freely “without wondering how the press would interpret what they have to say.”
Incidentally, the W3C writes the rules for the internet. Good to see the process is working so well.
From the W3C website.
The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is an international consortium where Member organizations, a full-time staff, and the public work together to develop Web standards. W3C’s mission is:
To lead the World Wide Web to its full potential by developing protocols and guidelines that ensure long-term growth for the Web.
Many municipalities and rural county governments in the US are stepping up to fill a void, providing their citizens with taxpayer-subsidized broadband internet access, services that the private sector has so far neglected to provide. Economies of scale mean that areas without high speed internet get it, and low-income people without access to the internet are at least one step closer. A valuable public service is provided at a very low cost to the individual.
But for obvious reasons, some telcos, cable companies, and ISP’s hate it, and they are taking their objections to legislators in state houses across the country. Claiming it’s all about “fairness,” a private industry that has long lobbied for deregulation, now wants to impose restrictions on cities and local governments that would effectively spell the end of public-broadband.
In North Carolina, House Bill 1587, “The Local Government Fair Competition Act” (apparently named with the same sense of humor as “The Clean Air Act”) is up for consideration and has a good shot at passing. Despite opposition from the North Carolina League of Municipalities and cities that already offer or are planning to offer the service, a well-funded lobbying effort by the Alliance of North Carolina Independent Telephone Companies is bearing fruit in the legislature. Donations to campaign committees are being made and legislation is being written. The dynamics in North Carolina are typical, playing out all over the US, town by town, county by county. The outcomes there and elsewhere will define how broadband technology is used for a generation or two.
The core idea at the heart of the legislation is that it’s somehow not fair for a local government (which pays no taxes and has no need to turn a profit) to compete in the marketplace with private companies who are just trying to make an honest buck. Even for ardent free-marketeers, the idea that government might be “taking over” things that “should be” handled by the private sector is frightening enough to shake their convictions. It’s an argument often heard in the healthcare debate, and, to some, it is an interesting, amazingly complex question with delicate interplays between competing interests and with “no clear” answers…you know, it’s nuanced.